On April 4, 1861, the new First Georgia Volunteer Infantry paraded at Camp Oglethorpe in Macon for Governor Joseph E. Brown. Following the review, the regiment formed a three-sided square around the govenor's carriage. Curious citizens crowded the fourth side of the square as Brown stood in the carriage to speak to the troops.
Officers and Soldiers:
The circumstances which have called for this rendezvous are of a peculiar character.—Our fathers bequeathed to us the wisest and best Government on the face of the earth.—The foundations upon which that Government was based, were the equality of the states, and the equal protection of the rights of the citizens of every section of the Union.—Equality of sovereignty, equality of rights, and equality of protection, are all the South ever demanded. She has borne much, endured long, but her stern decree has at last gone forth, that with less than these she never will be content. In the hope of a returning sense of justice on the part of the people of the Northern States, and for the sake of the Union, the South has long submitted to unjust Congressional legislation, which has plundered her of millions of dollars annually, to build up and enrich her Northern Confederates.
Southern industry has been taxed for the Northern interests, until our Confederates there, sustained by our bounty, and pampered by our liberality, have grown rich and haughty. Not content with all the advantages afforded them by our tariff acts, navigation laws and other legislation, intended to tax us for their benefit, they have even grown insolent, and despite our frequent warnings and remonstrances, have assumed to exercise the right of regulating our domestic affairs, according to their own notions of propriety. Not only so, but they have assumed to themselves exclusive ownership and control over the whole territory of the Union.
When Southern blood and Southern valor had won a rich domain, and added it to the common territory, they appropriated it all to their own use, and insisted on excluding the sons of the South from all participation in it, unless they would consent to occupy it upon terms of inequality. We demanded an equal participation in the common property. They refused to allow it. We then offered to divide it by a line giving them much the larger portion. They spurned the offer and by superior numbers in Congress attempted to drive us from every inch of it. Nor was this all, a portion of their number invaded the soil of a Southern sister State, and attempted to incite insurrection and rebellion, and with fire and sword, to spread devastation and turn over the fair field of our native South. A powerful political party sympathizing with this outrage and even deifying the demons who perpetrated it, planting itself upon a free soil platform, and adopting for his watchword, Northern superiority and Southern inequality, has trampled down our friends in the Northern States, proudly triumphed over us at the ballot box, and then taunted us with its arrogance about Northern strength and Southern weakness.
But one of two alternatives was left. We must cling to the Union, and become slaves to it, or we must sunder its ties and live free men out of it. We chose the latter, and seven gallant Southern States have resumed the powers delegated to the Federal Government, which had been so wantonly abused by it. Sovereign and independent as each then was, they all met in Convention, and have formed a new Confederate upon the basis of the old Constitution, making such modifications only, as the experience of three-quarters of a century had shown to be absolutely necessary, and such as might have preserved the old Union perpetually, had they been incorporated into the old Constitution, and faithfully carried out in practice by the Government. The wisdom of these changes is so apparent to all, that even our enemies are obliged to acknowledge the superiority of our statesmanship and sagacity.
The revolution is complete! A new nation is born! Civil and religious liberty are established! A Government of equality exists! And a Statesman and warrior of splendid intellectual powers, great prudence, commendable caution and enlarged experience, who has won by his valor in the field, and his wisdom in the Senate, a reputation which has extended far beyond the limits of our continent, has been called to watch over this infant giant in its tender years. Who is not proud to rally around the flag of his country, when Jefferson Davis directs the sword, and presides over the Cabinet? But I must not forget that Georgia’s great statesman, whose brilliant intellect, clear head, pure heart, and eloquent tongue have excited for him the plaudits of millions of freemen, and the admiration of civilized man everywhere, occupies the second place in the Councils of the Confederate States. I might refer with pride, to the Cabinet, with the giant Georgia intellect at its head, but I forbear. With the blessings of Heaven upon us, and with such men as Davis, Stephens ad Toombs at the helm, who can fear the result of the voyage?
But why are you here soldiers? Is it for the purpose of invading the territory of the United States, or plundering their people? No. We are not the aggressors. We rall only in defence of Southern homes, Southern firesides, and Southern altars, which are threatened with invasion and destruction. We deprecate war. But if war is forced upon us, we are prepared for it, and when once commenced, we swear by our altars, it shall never terminate till those who provoked it shall have been the greatest sufferers by it.—In its prosecution, should we be compelled, in self defence, to “carry the war into Africa,” and seize the Federal Capitol, or even to devastate Northern cities, it will not be our fault. We have only asked to be permitted to depart in peace from those whom we could no longer live in peace. In the language of Abram to Lott, we have said to our Northern brethren, Let there be no strife between us we pray thee. Is not the whole land before thee? If thou will take the left hand, then we will go to the right, or if thou depart to the right hand, then we well go to the left.
How have they responded to these peaceful overtures? They deny our right to either to depart in peace from them or to live as equals in peace with them. They claim the right to execute their laws within our jurisdiction, to garrison our Forts with a Black Republican army, and to blockade our cities with a Black Republican navy. Nay, more, they threaten to vindicate this assumed right at the mouth of the cannon and the point of the bayonet.—You have rallied, soldiers, to meet them upon this ground, and if necessary to drive them back by force of arms.
You are not called, however, to meet them upon the soil of Georgia, for we are proud to know that no federal troop desecrates her soil, and no federal flag waves over any portion of her territory.
We not only occupy our own forts and arsenals in Georgia, but by virtue of the moral power which sleeps in those stalwart arms of yours, you have enabled me, as your Executive, to extort respect for our State even from our enemies, and to compel the public officers of a great freesoil State, who had plundered on of your fellow-citizens, to make prompt resititution.
We must not forget, however, that some of our sister Confederate States are less fortunate, and that United States troops now occupy some of their strongest fortifications, while that Government threatens further reinforcements. The cause of all the Confederate States is now a common cause. It is for the common defence, therefore, that you have been called to arms, and most nobly have you responded to the call. Fifteen thousand other brave volunteers, with arms in their hands, will stand ready, at a moment’s warning, to march to sustain you, and fifty thousand more will respond whenever their services are needed. Soldiers, you are now soon to pass from my command, and leave for a time the territory of our beloved old State. Would that I could accompany you, and share with you your toils, and participate with you in your glory! My whole soul is in this movement, and my heart swells with emotions which I cannot utter, when I am obliged to bid you adieu, and return to my field of labors elsewhere. But you, in common with the people of Georgia, have assigned me other duties than those which you are called to perform, and I must obey your behest, and discharge them to the best of my ability.
As I am not permitted, therefore, to go with you, I must commit to your hands, upon the field, the flag of Georgia, and the honor of Georgia. In you custody I know that the one will ever wave victorious, and the other will never be tarnished. While the eyes of a million of persons in Georgia will be anxiously turned towards you, the prayers of our churches, our mothers, our wives, our daughters, and our sisters will constantly attend you. None will contemplate your defeat, but the hearts of all will leap with joy at your success.
Take then, that flag in your hands, and remember that, in the presence of this vast audience, I here commit the honor of Georgia to your keeping.
Go, then, and may the God of battles go with you, and lead, protect and defend you, till the last foot-print of the invader shall be obliterated from the soil of our common country.